Helen Oliver

Excerpt from the Lower East Side Biography Project

Steve Zehentner: Producer, Director of Photography

Helen Oliver Adelson, a true and lifelong Bohemian, embodies those values of individuality grounded in an uncompromising intelligence. As well as being a powerful painter, Helen has a profound aesthetic vision that encompasses all the arts and a highly developed self individuated articulacy buoyed by the merriest of dispostions...being in her presence is pure joy! - Penny Arcade

The interview with Penny Arcade took place in a room Helen painted at the divine Carlton Arms Hotel on East 25th street.

"Helen Oliver Adelson’s career as a painter began on York City’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Helen became an integral part of the thriving renegade artistic and performance art scene, known as the Lower East Side, which became an international sensation. During this time Helen painted portraits of performance artists, musicians, film-makers and writers including Penny Arcade, Stephanie and Lenny Kaye, Mary Lou Whittmer, Louie Cartwright, Kembra, Samoa, Brian Damage and numerous other “underground luminaries.” Helen Oliver Adelson has had one-woman shows in Zurich and Paris and has sold numerous commissioned portraits around the world including a portrait commissioned by Brother Flip Crawley, the prison inmate whose words instigated the famed Attica Prison Riots.

Helen is one of the first artists that started the Carlton Arms Art Project. Between 1986-1987 she painted two rooms that became famous for years but later on were sadly destroyed by water damage and graffti: "It was a liberating experience. Two weeks is not very much time to paint a room. It was amazing to be in that room for two weeks with nothing to think about except painting it, divorced from life in general except for the new life there. It was fun telling people if they would ask for a room in New York City to go to The Carlton Arms Hotel and ask for a Helen Oliver room." We waited almost 30 years for Helen to come back. Coming from Tarquinia, Italy, where she resides, Helen has been here for two months now. Her wonderful new piece "The Beginning" in the walls of room 5A is an amazing acomplishment. We feel honored to have that painting in our walls. And most grafeful to be around her, enjoying every minute of her creative process, her energy, herself ..." - excerpt from Carlton Armsweb site

Also by the Lower East Side Biography Project, Helen's brother, Edgar Oliver's performance of "Mother Was A Hit-Run Driver"
and an excerpt from the LES Biography Project's bio on Edgar

The Lower East Side Biography Project was created in 1999 by performance artist Penny Arcade and video producer Steve Zehentner as an ongoing biography series and oral history archive. The LES Bio Project’s biographies and archive work to ensure that future generations have access to the mad souls of invention and rebellion that built the Lower East Side’s international reputation as an incubator for authenticity and iconoclasm in art, culture and politics.

The project seeks to stem the tide of cultural amnesia by bridging the cultural gap between long time residents and newcomers to the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of New York’s Lower East Side. To this end, the LES Bio Project has a community-media training component where young filmmakers are trained in production and post-production technologies and then become shepherds of an individual oral history that they edit into a 28-minute biography. Since its inception, the LES Bio Project has trained over forty individuals, completed over sixty 28-minute programs, and videotaped dozens more interviews and live events.

The completed biographies cablecast and stream live every Monday at 11 p.m EST, in Manhattan on Time Warner 34, RCN 82, FIOS 33, and live stream on Manhattan Neighborhood Network Community Channel One.

View the current cablecast and livestream schedule on the project's Facebook page.